It seems like just yesterday that we were standing on the border between Thailand and Laos trying to get a lift into town with a local who we had mistaken for a taxi driver. That was January, now suddenly it was the end of June. Out of the blue, my birthday had snuck up on me, on us, and so Martin was tasked with trying to make one particular day in what felt like and endless string of memorable days even more special. So what did he do? He decided to book a tango lesson.
I must admit that on hearing that my birthday present was going to include a dancing lesson I was tempted to protest, to feign illness, arrive late, or to do all three. I kept mentally fast-forwarding to a mirrored dance studio, which magnified my every mistake. I imagined an over eager teacher chastising me for not being able to replicate the arrogant elegance of the tango and disapproving of my flat pumps. My trepidation, which must emanate from a suppressed childhood ballet trauma, was palpable, but I need not have worried.
Our tango lesson at Complejo Tango turned out to be one of the most hilarious things I have done in a long time. The class had an unusually large number of male participants including a rugby team which was on tour in Argentina. Our effeminate instructor wasted no time whipping the motley crew of would be tango dancers into shape. The group included a trio of Japanese women in hiking boots, a rugby player in a bright pink pair of pyjamas who appeared to have lost a bet with the boys, and several haughty Brazilians, who were clearly perplexed by the lack of rhythm emanating from certain corners of the room.
Most of us spent the entire hour crying with laughter, as our instructor critiqued our attempts to repeat the steps and tried to resist the temptation to smile when mimicking the sultry poses which tango demands.
By the end of the lesson all the women had learned to surrender into the arms of their male partners and a photo session ensued in which we attempted to capture high kicks, arched backs and head rush inducing positions on camera.
Next, it was off to a three course dinner with copious amounts of wine from Mendoza, followed by a show performed by professional tango dancers. The show took us on a jaunt through the history and development of tango from its early origins to its current day revival. The live band featured haunting violins, an accordion and a perfectly postured pianist who played various styles of tango music over the next hour and a half.
The spinning, flipping and high kicks were effortlessly executed, but knowing how difficult it had been for all of us to master the most basic of tango steps, such as the ochos (named after the number eight in Spanish because it requires the female to make move in a figure of eight), we watched as the dancers with respect and envy as they glided athletically across the stage, changing costumes and scenes countless times to perform an awe inspiring show.